Q: Are the Suter/Parise deals a circumvention of the CBA? A: No

I’ve read a few comments around the interpucks complaining about the questionable legality of the new matching mega-deals for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. I saw several variations on “tell me how this is any different than the Kovalchuk contract!”

Okay, I’ll tell you.

(If you want to drill deeper into this topic, I highly recommend this post from the Summer of Kovalchuk, The League’s Case Against Kovalchuk, which I wrote in response to several people who said the league had no case, and which turned out to anticipate the actual argument made by the league and the arbitrator’s ruling point for point. It’s pretty easy to see the distinction between Suter/Parise and Kovi when you recall all the delicious Kovi details.)

  1. The Suter/Parise deals are for 13 years, taking them to age 40. That’s younger than any of the mega-deals that have been allowed to stand (Hossa, Luongo, Zetterberg). 40 has been the assumed line-in-the-sand for these deals, beyond which, the ice gets thinner.
  2. Kovalchuk’s rejected deal was for 17 years, taking him to age 44. Nobody had ever tried to get a contract past Bettman that assumed a player would play to that advanced age. Hossa (I think it was Hossa, might have been Luongo) goes to 42, and that was investigated by the league.
  3. Kovalchuk’s rejected contract had a tail of six years. (The tail is the weakass low-paying part of the deal that’s tacked on to bring the cap hit down.) Suter/Parise’s tail is three years. That’s within the range of acceptability, in light of Hossa, Luongo, et al.
  4. Kovalchuk’s average salary in the tail was around $500K. That deal is the only one ever to attempt a tail under a million per year. $1MM/yr is the line-in-the-sand. Suter/Parise has a three year tail for a total of $4MM. Kovalchuk had a six year tail totaling around (maybe exactly, I forget) $3MM.
  5. Kovalchuk’s rejected deal was for more money ($102MM) with a much lower cap hit ($6MM), due to its absurdly long term (17 years) and super-long tail (six years) with almost no salary in it ($500K per year), taking him to his twilight years (44).
  6. The Suter/Parise deal fits right in with the Hossa, Luongo and Zetterberg deals, which were allowed to stand. Clearly, they designed the deals with that in mind.